Carpathian Heritage Society
Polski
THE CARPATHIAN MOUNTAINS
GEOLOGY

      The Carpathians extend in a geologic system of parallel structural ranges. The Outer Carpathians - whose rocks are composed of flysch - run from near Vienna, through Moravia, along the Polish-Czech-Slovak frontier, and through western Ukraine into Romania, ending in an abrupt bend of the Carpathian arc north of Bucharest. In this segment of the mountains, a number of large structural units of nappe character (vast masses of rock thrust and folded over each other) may be distinguished. In the eastern part of the Outer Carpathians this fringe is formed by the Skole Nappe, and in the western part it is formed by the Silesian Nappe, both of which are split by the longitudinal central Carpathian depression. Overthrust on the Silesian Nappe is the Magura Nappe, the counterparts of which in the east are the Chernogora (Chornohora) and the Tarcau nappes.

      The Inner Carpathians consist of a number of separate blocks. In the west lies the Central Slovakian Block; in the southeast lie the East Carpathian Block and the South Carpathian Block, including the Banat and the East Serbian Block. The isolated Bihor Massif, in the Apuseni Mountains of Romania, occupies the centre of the Carpathian arc. Among the formations building these blocks are ancient crystalline and metamorphic cores onto which younger sedimentary rocks - for the most part limestones and dolomites of the Mesozoic era (245 to 66.4 million years ago) - have been overthrust.

      The third and innermost range is built of young Tertiary volcanic rocks formed less than 50 million years ago, differing in extent in the western and eastern sections of the Carpathians. In the former they extend in the shape of an arc enclosing, to the south and east, the Central Slovakian Block; in the latter they run in a practically straight line from northwest to southeast, following the line of a tectonic dislocation, or zone of shattering in the Earth's crust, parallel with this part of the mountains. Between this volcanic range and the South Carpathian Block, the Transylvanian Plateau spreads out, filled with loose rock formations of young Tertiary age.

      The Central Slovakian Block is dismembered by a number of minor basins into separate mountain groups built of older rocks, whereas the basins have been filled with younger Tertiary rocks.

      In Romania, orogenic, or mountain-building, movements took place along the outer flank of the Carpathians until late in the Tertiary period (less than 10 million years ago), producing foldings and upheaval of the sedimentary rocks of the sub-Carpathian depression; the result was the formation of a relatively lower range called the sub-Carpathians adjoining the true Carpathians.

      The relief forms of the Carpathians have, in the main, developed during young Tertiary times. In the Inner Carpathians, where the folding movements ended in the Late Cretaceous epoch (97.5 to 66.4 million years ago), local traces of older Tertiary landforms have survived. Later orogenic movements repeatedly heaved up this folded mountain chain, leaving a legacy of fragmentary flat-topped relief forms situated at different altitudes and deeply incised gap valleys, which often dissect the mountain ranges. In this way, for example, the gap sections of the Danube and of some of its tributaries - the Váh, the Hernád, and the Olt - developed.

      The last Ice Age affected only the highest parts of the Carpathians, and glaciers were never more than about 10 miles long, even in the Tatras, where the line of permanent snow ran at 5,500 feet above sea level.


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